Anthropology, Department of


First Advisor

Phillip Geib

Second Advisor

LuAnn Wandsnider

Third Advisor

Carolyn Heitman

Date of this Version

Summer 7-22-2019

Document Type



A thesis presented to the faculty of the Graduate College at the University of Nebraska in partial fulfillment of requirements for the degree of Master of Arts

Major: Anthropology

Under the supervision of Professor Phil Geib

Lincoln, Nebraska, August 2019


Copyright 2019, Ryan Mitchell Mathison


The Sand Hills of Nebraska are a unique environment located in the west-central portion of Nebraska. This portion of North America has long supported human life. One group in particular that called the Sand Hills home are the Dismal River people. Dismal River is the name that archaeologists gave to a group of horticulturalists that lived in circular structures on the sand dunes, often near the rivers, in the Sand Hills. This group, while generally known through archaeology, also has a potential historic or ethnographic presence in the form of the Cuartalejo Apache visited by Ulibarri, and potentially mentioned by several other historic sources. With that said, they are best known through archaeology, and one of the key features through which they are archaeologically identified is their use of dark gray, simple stamped, sand tempered ceramics. The ceramics from one Dismal River site in particular, the Humphrey Site, were thoroughly analyzed to better understand the importance of these ceramics, and how similar or different Humphrey site ceramics are to those at other Dismal River sites. Alongside the ceramic analysis, Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) was used in order to acquire further dates for two houses at the site, features 12 and 14. These individual analyses demonstrated the importance of Dismal River ceramics, showed that these ceramics are indeed very similar to one another, and as such should continue to be considered as belonging to one group of Plains Apache people, and also continued to demonstrate the utility of OSL dating methods in the Nebraska Sand Hills.

Advisor: Phillip R. Geib